Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Everything is illuminated: The Light Show

Image: Rose, by Ann Veronica Janssens, from telegraph.co.uk

Have you seen the sun? Apparently it's big, hot, round, and radiates a lot of light. Last seen in the UK around the time of the Royal Wedding in 2011.

If you find it, please return it at once and I will reward you handsomely with choc ices and Soltan. In the meantime, I would suggest that everyone visits The Light Show at the Hayward Gallery.

Hot on the heels of The Rain Room, the Light Show is this season's 'it' exhibition, selling out daily and receiving rave reviews from kids to critics alike.

The ability of light to transform your whole emotional state cannot be underestimated. Perhaps this is the key to the Light Show's unprecedented popularity; it turns out a lot of people want to escape the dark, grey and INSANELY COLD streets of London for a lighter, brighter and happier world.

If our eyes are indeed the windows to our souls, imagine the mood enhancing benefits of throwing open those windows and letting light flood in. Luminescent, colourful, dazzling, psycadelic light. It's really no wonder you leave this exhibition with that dizzy, uplifted (and slightly queasy) feeling that you get when you step off a rollercoaster.

Image; Chromosaturation, by Carlos Cruz-Diez, from telegraph.co.uk
Somehow all of the hype for the Light Show had completely eluded me before my own visit, so when a friend suggested it, I thought we were heading to an obscure, cool little exhibition on the South Bank.

What awaited us was a wildly popular, other worldly experience. The lacklustre afternoon daylight seemed lightyears away once we entered this impressive display of illusion and effects. The first exhibit (Cylinder II, below) is pure, unadulterated sparkle, like a giant Christmas decoration. I was hynotised.

Image: Leo Villareal, Cylinder II, 2012
Once you get past the initial spectacle, there is a lot more to these installations than meets the eye. I was particularly struck by some of the more subtle pieces, including Exploded View by Jim Campbell, which plays on our uncertainty of shadows. A web of little lights gently shimmers in seemingly random patterns - until you catch it at a particular angle and the effect takes on the unmistakably familiar shape of passing commuters on a street.

Another highlight was the solid 'cone' of light by artist Anthony McCall. We were awestruck as we stood inside his light sculpture, 'ripping' into the beams around us with our hands and staring, fixated, into the light at the end of the tunnel. "I feel like I'm about to meet my maker!" whispered a young woman next to us.

Image; You and I, Horizontal, by Anthony McCall, from guardian.co.uk
My absolute favourite thing at the Light Show was the somewhat stressful display of fountains in a strobe lit room, by Olafur Eliasson. Under the intensely flashing lights, the water makes random, unconnected shapes. You can feel the droplets on your face and yet the water looks solid, as though frozen mid-flight. (Don't touch the water though. They don't like that.)

By this point, my poor retinas had taken an absolute beating, never quite sure whether to dilate, contract or indeed to believe what is in front of them.

In my very humble, layman's opinion, there were just a couple of duds at the Light Show. I didn't quite get the little plastic cup, spinning around on a blender, with a torch shining onto it...

But overall, the exhibition is a spectacle for the senses which simply awes and inspires. Absolutely anyone would take enormous pleasure from this very accessible exhibition, and it could just be a lifesaver for light-starved Londoners this Spring.

The Light Show runs until 6 May 2013. Tickets are £11 (concessions available). Tip: Book tickets in advance, preferably not on a weekend! 

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